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Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835—1910)


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Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

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Novel by Clemens, published in 1894 under the pseudonym Mark Twain. It was dramatized by Frank Mayo (1895).

On the Mississippi during the 1830s, at Dawson's Landing, Mo., lives Percy Driscoll, a prosperous slave owner. On the day his son Tom is born, his nearly white slave Roxy gives birth to a son, Chambers, whose father is a Virginia gentleman. Since Tom's mother dies when he is only a week old, he is raised by Roxy along with Chambers, whose twin he is in appearance. Roxy, fearful that her son may some day be sold down the river, changes the two children, and upon the death of Percy, his brother Judge Driscoll adopts Chambers, believing him to be Tom. The boy grows up a coward, a snob, and a gambler. Even though Roxy tells him that she is his mother, he sells her to pay his gambling debts. On escaping, she blackmails him. To obtain money he robs the judge and murders him with a knife stolen from Luigi, one of a pair of Italian twins with whom the judge once fought a duel. The evidence is against the twins, who are defended by David Wilson, an unsuccessful lawyer, whose “tragedy” consists in the ridicule that has resulted from his eccentric originality and iconoclasm; his humor and his interest in palmistry and fingerprints cause the people of Dawson's Landing to call him “Pudd'nhead.” Wilson feels secure in his case for the twins, since the fingerprints on the knife are not those of the accused. One day he acquires the fingerprints of the spurious Tom, and with this evidence is able to vindicate his methods, and to win at last the admiration of his fellow townsmen, by saving the twins and convicting Chambers, who is sold down the river while the real Tom is restored to his rightful position.

Subjects: Literature

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Mark Twain (1835—1910) American novelist and humorist